My secret superpower for getting so much done

Recently I posted a screenshot on my Instagram stories showing my sleep stats. This one, in fact.

I had a flurry of direct messages from people commenting that they couldn’t believe I sleep so much. How is it possible to sleep 9.5 hours?!

Well, it’s easy if you set your environment up for good sleep (no screens before bed, cool bedclothes, dark room, etc.). I’ve always slept well, ever since I was a child, and most importantly, I believe that sleeping so well is the reason I have such a lot of energy and can get so many things done.

On the other hand, it’s also why, when my twins were newborns, I felt so out of sorts. It’s because I wasn’t sleeping. The minute those two started sleeping better at 10 months it was like the sun shone brightly again 🙂 because my brain was clear!

When I start working with a new time management coaching client, I always check their sleep habits first. Sleep is so important and even if you’re not aware of it, your body needs good sleep to function well and you need to be well-rested to be most productive and effective. If you’re not well-rested, you’ll find yourself with fuzzy thinking and a brain that can’t focus on a task for very long.

We work with small goals until they’re sleeping at least 7 hours a night, and then we start working on goals. It works because it’s easy to get things done when you’re sleeping well.

I know that it seems counter-intuitive to go sleep instead of working more, but I’ve proven it so many times in my and others’ lives that if you go sleep, you’ll get your list of things done much quicker the following day because you’re rested. I have often said, “I feel like a new woman” when I tackle that to-do list and get things done from a base of good, uninterrupted sleep.

Try it and see. Sleep might very well be your superpower too 😉

Interestingly, I heard from two different sources that there is only a really tiny percentage of humans who need less than 6 hours a night, and how to tell if you’re one of these is that you never feel drowsy outside those 6 hours and you don’t need caffeine or other substances to get you going.

How many hours do you sleep per night, on average? Do you feel rested and energised in the mornings, or do you feel you need to work on your sleep?

PS My goal has been 7 hours 30 per night for years and years; this year it’s 7 hours 45 and I’m at 7 hours 42.

How I use a master to-do list to prevent overwhelm

master list

Let’s talk about the difference between a master list and a daily to-do list.

People often confuse the two which is the exact reason they experience overwhelm. I would also feel overwhelmed if I saw 30 items every day but not if I only see 5 or 6 items.

  1. I make a master to-do list of what I call Life Admin every so often. This list has things around the house, projects, financial things, medical appointments, etc.
  2. Here’s the trick – I keep this list on my desk so it’s visible at all times.
  3. Every week I put one or two of these things on my weekly list – to be done either during the week (if it’s time-specific or dependent on other people) or on the weekend (usually self-imposed and needing only my input).
  4. When I complete the item, I cross it out with a highlighter. As I progress through the list, more and more items get crossed off which feels very satisfying for this upholder.
  5. I then rewrite the list when the list of undone items is less than half the list, or it’s a new month (I love the fresh slate of a new month).

I mentioned above that I have a master list for my life admin. I also have one for all my clients at my full-time job (in Excel) and I suppose you could call my To Blog list a master list too 🙂

If you don’t already use a master to-do list, I encourage you to try one. There is a satisfaction in knowing that you can take a month, two months even to get to all your things, but that you only need to do just as many as you want to, every couple of days or weeks.

Do you use a master list? What do you have master lists for?

How to read more in 2020

If you’ve been reading around here or follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I’m a big reader. (I even started a bookstagram account late last year – marciareadsalot).

I read 97 books in 2016, 120 books in 2017, 112 books in 2018 and I finished on 108 books last year.

I hover around the 100 books a year mark consistently, and thought I’d share 5 ways that we can all read more. It’s not like I do nothing but read (I’m a full-time employee, parent to twins, wife, friend and coach/ speaker/ workshop facilitator) but I do prioritise my reading.

  1. Have a compelling to-read list

If you only have boring books on your list, you’ll be less inclined to pick up a book and read. Therefore, decide what you like to read and add some fun books (for you) to your list.

If you can’t wait to read a book, there’s a very high possibility you’ll read faster, and thus read more books.

Tip – I create a To read – January collection within my Kindle so that I always have a great list of books to pick from. If I own the physical copy, I download the sample, and leave that in the collection so I remember what I wanted to read.

2. Stop reading books you hate

This ties into number 1 above. If you are not enjoying a book, stop wasting your reading time and pick up a book you want to read instead.

Did you know that you don’t have to finish every book you start? Please start freely abandoning books. I abandoned 7 books this year (yay!) – the faster I abandon, the more I can read 🙂

3. Always keep a book with you

Even if you don’t keep a physical book with you, have an audio or Kindle book on your phone. I like to keep a non-fiction book on my phone that I can read a short piece when I have a few moments. Things that work very well are essay-type books, or 100 days to …… or 365 days of …………..-type books too.

4. First read, then scroll

I realised that I was grabbing my phone in the mornings instead of my book, so a couple of mornings I didn’t switch on the wifi for a whole hour while I read instead. I nearly finished my book just from reading first instead of scrolling.

If you’re having trouble focusing, set a timer for 20 minutes and start reading. 20 minutes is the perfect time for a non-fiction read, and I guarantee that if you give a work of fiction 20 minutes, you’ll get into it enough to either continue or abandon.

I also want to point out my blog post from a few years ago where I recognised that with the 4 – 5 hours of phone time I have a day, I could easily read a non-fiction book once a week. See why you and I are not reading more books.

5. Join a book club

Most of the population are obligers and as Gretchen Rubin says, if you’re an obliger and you want to read more books, join a book club. A friend told me on instagram that she had a terrible reading year (14 books). She is an obliger so i suggested a book club. She is in a book club but they each read a different book. As a Four Tendencies facilitator, I’d suggest she join a book club where they all read the same book. My own book club reads the same book and we are mostly Obligers, with some Questioners, one Rebel and me, the Upholder, and this works very well for the Obligers.

Joining a book club is one way to read more and it’s a fantastic way to also build intentional friendships.

Are you reading more or less than you were a few years ago? How do you make sure you’re reading a lot?

{2019 review} What I want more of in 2020

Travel

I definitely want more overseas travel (anything from 0 this year is a good thing!). I haven’t been overseas since 2012 which is a lot of time for a passport to lay idle. I’d be happy if we get this sorted. What I really want is someone to know the inside of my mind, plan everything at the best price and most convenience, and just tell me to EFT money to book tickets 🙂

More time with D

This year we tried to go on a weekend away. Our only babysitter who is willing to do more than one night, my mother, then had a little operation on her hand, so couldn’t do it. Oh well, we’ll try again next year. In addition, I’m adding D to my regular dates schedule, the same as I do with my friend dates, so that we can have a more regular dating schedule.

It might be a good time to set up regular dates with my kids too. This year has felt quite haphazard, which is not really my style.

More walks

I think I need to make a rule for myself and put it in my diary like I do with everything else. Every couple of days, get home, put on my takkies and gym pants, and go for a walk with the kids.

Creative work

I want to create an online course or new workshop, or revamp two existing courses. I do have my Help! I need more time course, which I do still love. It is good content and has helped many people so I should look at that one, and then I’m thinking about doing something around vision boards and goals. We’ll see. If you have some ideas, do let me know.

Fun

I actually want to set aside some money every month for fun. Not to buy things and bring more stuff into my house, but to be generous, and spend on people and experiences, and finally set up a reading prize at the kids’ school.

Coaching

I coached three lovely ladies this year and I’m ready to open up my coaching calendar for about 4 – 6 more hours a month. I really would love to do more Four Tendencies coaching or incorporate it into my current coaching practice. If this sounds like it might be a fit for you, let me know.

What do you want more of next year?

{time} 5 parts to a good evening routine

I have mentioned a time or two before that I’m no good in the morning because I’m a night owl.

This is exactly why I’ve set up my environment for success by doing everything I possibly can to prepare for my day the night before. Here are the building blocks of my evening routine:

lunch

Pack lunch

I typically pack mine and the kids’ lunches ( I don’t always pack theirs) while I’m preparing another meal. The kitchen is already untidy with various foods out so I might as well use the time so that there’s only one clean-up session instead of two.

Choose clothes

Years ago I realized that if I chose my clothes in the morning, I took much longer than if I simply chose and set them out at night.

If I do this, I can still change my mind if I really don’t feel like wearing whatever I set out, but at least I have some idea of where to start.

choose clothes

Set out all my bags and things that need to go to work with me.

Part of being prepared for the next day is to have all my things ready to go.

I have my handbag and laptop bag ready, together with any errand bags, in case I need to drop books off at the library, do a return at the shops, etc.

Family connection time

On the nights I have a 6pm exercise class, I try to spend time with the kids before I leave, otherwise I might only see them right at the end of their supper as they’re preparing for bed.

Other than those nights, we have supper together as a family every evening and then I clean the kitchen while Dion starts the bedtime routine (teeth, Bible, other reading).

I want to throw out a word of caution here – look at the time you spend with your kids throughout the week, not just that day, otherwise you’re likely to feel demotivated if you have a busy couple of evenings. I had someone in my workshops recently who said she couldn’t exercise after work because then she’d never see her kids. We explored it a bit and she realised that she spent plenty of time with them in the mornings and most evenings too. Bedtime is not the only connection time you have.

reading

Time for me

I have a mostly daily rhythm which I try to adhere to, because it serves me so well. I exercise two nights a week, do photos some nights, read for extended periods some nights, and do some side hustle work (coaching, workshop prep, blogging) some nights too.

There are also some nights when I update my budget or catch up with life admin, almost like a power hour. It evens out generally but it becomes very clear really quickly when I need some time to catch up with life because my wallet will be bulging with receipts, or my desk has too much stuff on it, etc. I try to pay close attention to the visible signs that I need some “house admin” time.

If you’re a night owl too, what forms part of your evening routines and rhythms?

PS here’s where you can catch up reading about my morning routine.

{mindset} The 3 Rs for the festive season


This week, I want to keep it short and sweet by leaving you with the three Rs for this time of year.

1. Rest – to recover physical strength

  • I speak to many people every week and everyone seems to be tired. It seems like it’s been a looooong year and we’re all depleted of our reserves.
  • Whether you take actual leave over December or not, I’d like to encourage you to build in some time every weekend to do something truly restful for your body to replenish your physical reserves. Prioritise sleep; if you feel tired, go have a nap on the couch. There’s nothing nicer than going to lay on the couch with a book and nodding off to wake an hour later, refreshed. Eat proper food (fruits and vegetables), drink enough water and get outside in nature (literally, go outside and stand there for 5 minutes to breathe).

2. Relax – to make less tense or anxious

  • Relax speaks to our mental or emotional states whereas rest above speaks to our physical states. This time of year can be stressful as everyone wants to get all their work done so tempers are frayed, people are impatient and good manners go out the window. Don’t be that person.
  • Write down a few sentences that will help you relax about what you can and can’t control. I did this very thing the other day. I wrote down what God has called me to do (to do excellent work with the utmost of care, take good care of my clients, be courteous and professional and do my work as for Him) and I glance over at my bullet journal daily to remind myself that I’m not here to stress about anything.
  • I asked on Instagram Stories a few weeks ago how people were feeling about Christmas. About 56% of my followers said stressed and anxious. That’s a lot of stressed people! If you’re feeling anxious about Christmas, read this post – it’s your permission to do things your way, or not at all. One of my favourite Christmases ever was one where I said to Dion, “I don’t feel like doing anything so let’s just you and I do our own thing at home”. This was pre-kids and we ended up going to visit an uncle but it was still super low-key and wonderful!

3. Review – to make an assessment with the intention of making a change if necessary

  • You and I both know that you can make a change any time you feel like it. We also know that the start of a new year is an excellent time to change things that are no longer working for you.
  • But there’s a step before making change, and that is reviewing. As you go about your business during the month, I’d like to encourage you to keep the monthly review page or your bullet journal handy. Every time you notice something, jot that down. What’s really working? What’s not working? Did you just have an insight? Write it down. What do you need to let go of? What’s bugging you that you need to change? And so on.
  • You’re being a detective in your own life, gathering evidence so that you can solve the mystery of being more intentional next year 🙂

** I have 10 X 45-minute laser coaching slots at $50 each during December and I want you to book one of those sessions for us to talk about your life, do your review and set you up, ready to take on 2020. Email me! Then I’ll Paypal invoice you, we’ll schedule your session and I’ll send you the prep pack. This will be especially useful for the Obligers out there – accountability is the secret tool of your success.

Over to you – which of these three Rs is currently speaking to you most? Obey the nudge and take some action.

{organising} One in, one out

One in, one out is a famous organising concept. It makes sense too in that for every one thing you bring into your house, you let go of one thing.

That only works if your house was streamlined to start off with and you’re very diligent applying this concept throughout your home, even with kids!

As I wrote a few weeks ago, I really like the idea of one in, more than one out just to try and keep on top of the stuff.

But let’s talk about where we could practically apply this concept:

  1. Time

Every time you add one more thing to your plate, unless that plate was very empty to start off with, think about what you can eliminate.

E.g. if you sign up for a new committee and it meets once a week, will your exercise routine suffer?

Money

2. Money

If you get an increase or a bonus, think about where you can be generous. Can you increase your giving at church? Can you sponsor a child through World Vision or Compassion International? Can you pay more money into your retirement savings or unit trusts?

Something fun to try – even if you need all your increase just to keep up with inflation, just buy a bag of rice or pasta every shopping trip and give it to someone once you’re outside the store, or pop into the donation boxes I see in many stores. Recently Dischem (a pharmacy franchise in South Africa) had a big donation box for sanitary pads. The cashiers asked as I was paying for my toiletries if I’d like to pay for a pack for the box. Of course I said yes. It was so easy for me and yet adds up to a whole bunch of goodness when donated to a school.

3. Digital files

It’s so easy to download freebie printable after freebie printable. I understand – I myself offer about 7 freebies when you sign up to my mailing list. But… for each thing you download, ask yourself if you use it? Or if you’re not sure yet, download, and then delete something else you know you’re not using.

It may help to have a folder called “freebie printables” so you can see them all together in one place.

When you download a new app, see if there’s another you’re not using and can delete.

4. Photos

We all take too many photos because it’s so easy on our smartphones. I therefore recommend the Daily Delete, which Becky Higgins made famous.

Every night, go through that day’s photos and delete, delete, delete. You don’t need 30 photos of the same event unless you captured 30 different things.

If you don’t have a chance to do this every night, then play a game with yourself and every time you wait for the kettle to boil, see if you can delete 10 pics.

5. Stuff

This is the most obvious part. Definitely get yourself trained to look through your stuff after each shopping trip. When I buy new T-shirts, I train myself to “joy check” the rest of them to see which I can donate. Sometimes I don’t want to donate a t-shirt, but I do see something else that can go, so out it goes.

I actually go so far as to leave my new things on the bench at the foot of my bed until I decide what will leave, because I simply never want to live an overstuffed life.

Which of these is easy for you? Which will need more thought? Do share your tips in the comments so I can learn from you.

Why are you so busy?


Years ago, 10 years to be exact, my friend, Beth, asked me the question, “why are you so busy?”

You see, I’d cram my weekly goals list so full of things and it’s amazing to me to think about now, but I’d actually get them all done.

But one day she asked me this question and do you know what I said?

“I think I’m trying to avoid the pain”.

The pain of infertility, of trying and trying to have kids, and this thing feeling and being completely out of my control.

Once I had that realisation, I slowed down a lot. It wouldn’t appear so to most people because I’ve always been a very driven person from my childhood, but a lot of slowing down happened. I even chose a word for the year, simplify, to help me focus on slowing down.

I think my default for not dealing with things is to get busy.

I’m now very conscious that when I feel like I need to do everything, it probably means I’m trying to avoid dealing with something emotional.

I then stop and ask myself, what am I trying to avoid?


So I’m going to ask you the same thing if you’re filling your life with non-life giving activities.

What’s really going on? Why are you so busy?

Marie Kondo said in her book that once your home is “tidy”, you then have no more space to avoid your big life decisions. I agree.

Gretchen Rubin says something along the same vein about a friend of hers: “I organised my fridge and now I can look for a new job”.

Are you occupying yourself with busyness (or social media or comparison envy) instead of dealing with your own big life issues?

Have a think and maybe you’ll also find that you’re avoiding something you need to deal with. If you’d like to work through some of these issues, I’d love to work with you. Check out the coaching options and email me when you’re ready.

Do you want to share? I’d love to hear more in the comments.

5 things I’ve learnt in the first 6 months of 2019

  1. I really love going on holidays. As it stands, we’re only now on our second holiday of the year. Usually we’re on holiday for the first week of the year, and then again in April/ May. This year the school holidays didn’t work to our advantage so we stayed put, and I reallllllllly felt the pressure in May and June.

2. I’ve met my goal and run four Four Tendencies workshops so far this year. I always knew I loved running workshops because it brings together many loves of my life – teaching, people, connecting and connecting dots for others, organising and stationery 🙂 However, I had forgotten exactly how much I love running workshops. After every single workshop, I’ve been on such a high for the entire evening. My remaining two workshop dates are: 7 September for the Five Love Languages, and 2 November for the Four Tendencies. Take 10% off if you come to both workshops.

3. I’ve learned that boldness can increase the more you practise. My word of the year is BOLD because I suspected that if I wanted to run 5 workshops this year, I’d need boldness to put myself out there. Somewhere between workshop 3 and 4 I realised that I’m not scared to tell people about the workshops anymore. Not that I was scared, per se, but it felt a bit cringeworthy to put myself out there and say, “yes, come, you will benefit from doing this”. Honestly, a lot of it was reminding myself why I’m running these workshops. I actually sat with a journal and pen before workshop 3 and wrote down what people get from coming to the workshops. And then I think I spoke to people from a true place of wanting to help them. What is your word of the year, and how are you living it out this year?

4. I’ve also learned that I should definitely not tackle multiple house projects at the same time. In my defense, one went over by a month, one took two weeks longer than the other and the only one that worked exactly according to plan was the third one. Thank goodness those are all done, and now we save towards next year’s maintenance items. Isn’t it sad that house things are never done?!

5. My kids wrote their first set of exams just over a month ago. Well. As two upholder parents with questioner and rebel kids, I can say the entire experience has been a steep learning curve for all of us. We will definitely start setting clear expectations much earlier next time instead of leaving them to it for a few weeks by themselves. Upholders would take the exam timetable and work backwards and then diligently start studying; we’ve seen now that the other tendencies just don’t have that same way of responding to the expectation of studying. What’s your tendency, and how did you approach exams when you were at school or university?

What are some of the things you learned during the first half of 2019?

PS do you know, I’m still sometimes writing the year as 2018!

Organising Queen’s best books of 2018, just in time for summer/ winter reading


I thought I’d go ahead and post my best fiction and non-fiction books of 2018, just in case you want some backlist titles for summer/ winter reading.

Just like in the Northern Hemisphere, I also read a lot during our winter because I completely indulge myself in all that is good about winter (reading with tea under a blanket).

So here we go, first my top fiction reads and then my top non-fiction reads.

Fiction

Still Alice – Lisa Genova

Still Alice is 10 years old this year! If you get the physical copy, you might find the lovely 10th anniversary edition.

I loved this book so much but I’ll confess because I lean to the dramatic (!), it made me super paranoid that I was getting Alzheimer’s. That’s not a spoiler – it’s in the book blurb that it’s about a woman who gets early-onset Alzheimer’s. To this day, if I walk into a room and can’t remember why I’m there, I freak out a little inside. 

I gave this book 4.5* because it was so uncomfortable to read in places, but it is my own issues. It’s actually a 5* read.

The Ensemble – Aja Gabel

This was a debut novel spanning about 20 years in the lives of a string quartet. It is beautifully written, has interesting, compelling characters and still moves at a good pace. You don’t need to know anything about music (I don’t!) to appreciate and enjoy this book.

I still can’t believe this is her debut novel – it’s so, so good and was my absolute favourite book of the year (5*). I loved it so much I plan to listen to it in June on audio. And….  if you’re like me, once you’ve read the book, 

As an aside, Beth also read this book (the only one of my friends SO FAR!) and loved it, and we generally read completely different genres, other than psychological thrillers which we both enjoy. 

Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

Like Still Alice, this was also a book club pick. I loved everything about this book and I loved the mom character too, who I am sure is an enneagram 1.

This was a 5* read but I chopped off 1/2* due to a small detail near the end.

If you’ve read any of these three books, do let me know what you thought in the comments.

Non-fiction

How not to hate your husband after kids – Jancee Dunn

I know this is a clickbaity title but the research is so solid, and this is a fantastic book. She covers all the important parts of marriage – especially the ones that cause… disharmony…. and I loved every single chapter.

Lab girl – Hope Jahren

This was the book that made me see nature in a different way. I wrote so much more here.

The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin

And I wrote more about this book here

And if you want to get inspired to get organised and nest, I’d love you to grab a copy of one of my books here.

Do you have any great backlisted titles to recommend to me?

PS These are affiliate links – it costs you exactly the same price and I get a few cents on each title for recommending it to you.

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